olivet-discourse

Mark 13

Today’s reading is Mark 13.

I enjoy architecture and appreciate a well-designed and good-looking building. Don’t get me wrong, I know nothing about architecture; I just like places when they are done right. At least one disciple of Jesus shared this quality with me. According to verse 1, “As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’” If he’d said that to me, I would have said, “I know! Aren’t they cool! Herod has his problems, but he did build us a nice temple!”

Jesus, however, was not impressed and he told that disciple not to get too attached to that building. In verse 2 he said, “‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’”

Ahem.

Well, at least Jesus called the buildings “great.” Though..., maybe he just meant large.

Peter, James, and John--his closest disciples--asked Jesus privately about this. Peter’s brother Andrew also got in on the discussion, according to verse 3. What Jesus said in the rest of this chapter is called “The Olivet Discourse” because Jesus spoke these words on the mount of Olives while overlooking the temple. Going into what Jesus taught in this chapter is beyond what I could cover in a devotional, but there is a message here for us just in the first two verses. The magnificent temple that awed at least one disciple was gone within 30 years or so after Jesus said these words. It happened during the lifetime of these men. Long before the temple was destroyed, though, it stopped mattering to these men. On the day of Pentecost, God’s Spirit moved powerfully and saved thousands of people. And he kept moving and kept saving men, spreading his work throughout the rest of the world in waves that ripple out to us. No longer did they need a great building to have a spiritual experience with God. They had their memories of Jesus and his words, the Holy Spirit’s work, and thousands of disciples to nurture. Buildings are impressive and incredibly useful but if we love the building more than God or the souls of men, we’re doing it wrong.

Suzanne and I were part of a few church plants before we came to Calvary so we know what it is like to use someone else’s building. One thing that does for you is make you thankful for the building you have when you get one. I like our building here at Calvary and I’m so grateful that the Lord provided the funds we needed to fix the leaky roof and (finally!) carpet the upstairs. But this building will be destroyed someday--hopefully a long time into the future, but someday. The impressive monuments in Washington and the stately buildings there will not last forever. Someday everything we know will burn up and be replaced by a city made by God where righteousness dwells. We can’t take any buildings with us to that city, but we can take people who hear the gospel message and are rescued from an eternity apart from God.

So, let’s be thankful for the stuff we have--our church building and grounds, our homes, clothes, cars, etc. But don’t fall in love with those things; use them to reach and disciple and love people for Jesus Christ.

Start with your own family and you’ll be on the right track.

Matthew 24

Here’s a link to [Matthew 24] (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matt24&version=NIV). Read it.

Now then, Matthew 24 begins with the disciples being much too impressed by Herod’s temple (v. 1). Remember that this chapter continued Matthew’s description of the passion week, the week which ended in Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Already this week, the disciples witnessed Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-11). They saw him bounce the merchants from the temple, refute and then rebuke the religious leaders of Israel (Matt 21:12-. After seeing all of this, I can’t help but think the disciples were anticipating a revolution that would result in Christ becoming king of Israel. As his disciples, they would have control over Israel’s culture, politics, and worship, so these magnificent buildings would be under their control. “Isn’t it going to be great, Jesus, when we have control of all this majestic beauty?” That seems to me to be the mood of the disciples in verse 1.

Bursting their euphoric bubble, Jesus told them not to get too attached to it all because it would all be leveled someday (v. 2). Verse 3 tells us the setting for the rest of this chapter was “the Mount of Olives.” This is a hill just outside the city of Jerusalem and it provides a sweeping, impressive view of the oldest part of Jerusalem, including the temple area. If you’ve heard people talk about “The Olivet Discourse,” they are talking about this chapter, Matthew 24. Here Jesus spoke prophetically about what would happen to Israel at some future time.

Christians still debate about whether these prophecies have been fulfilled or not. At least one of these prophecies, the one about the destruction of the temple in verse 2, certainly has been fulfilled already. It happened in AD 70 when the Jews went to war against the Roman empire and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, including the temple. What is still debated is whether or not any or all of the rest of these prophecies has been fulfilled historically or if they are still to come. The answer you come to on that question is intricately tied to your views on other New Testament prophecies about the end times and this devotional is not the place for me to get into all that.

The final paragraph of this chapter is very appropriate for a devotional like this one. There Jesus encouraged us to act like “the faithful and wise servant” (v. 45a). If we see our lives as a stewardship, an opportunity to faithfully do what God commanded and called us to do, there will be eternal rewards in store for us (v. 47). If, however, we doubt that Jesus is coming or presume that his coming a long ways off, that is a sign of unbelief and, despite our claims to follow Jesus, we will fall under his judgment because of our lack of faith (vv. 48-51).

As a much younger man, newly married to Suzanne and early in my seminary training, I worked with a guy who was very, very interested in Bible prophecy. He was training me to work the overnight shift in a hotel, so there was a lot of time when we were sitting around with very little work to do. Since I was in seminary, he was very interested in talking to me about the end times. But if I asked him about his church attendance or his walk with Christ or why he was living with a woman and having children with her, I hit a conversational brick wall. Bible prophecy and the end times are valid and important subjects for us as Christians to study and understand. If we study and understand them, however, without them causing us to live as better managers of our lives on this earth for God’s glory, we are missing the point. Jesus calls us to be ready for his return but being ready for his return requires diligently living according to his commands. This passage, then, is an opportunity for each of us to think about our lives. Where do we put our time and attention and money? Do we put them in things that will grow us in our faith and holiness, in things that will extend the message of the gospel and thus expand God’s kingdom? Or are we wasting the time that we have living self-centeredly (v. 49)?

The master is coming; are you doing what he expects you to do until he arrives?